Prince Richard Ozobu, is an American-trained accountant, and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Enugu state. A strong supporter of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, Ozobu in this interview with MIKE UBANI, pushes for a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction in 2023, but warns that this might not be possible unless the South-east enters into political alliance with the APC.
Several months before the last Presidential election, you urged the Igbo to vote massively for the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari, and with the passage of time, do you think you were justified to make that appeal?
Yes, I asked my people of the Southeast to vote massively for the re-election of the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari, for a second term in office, because I realized then that he had done very well in office especially concerning the needs of every region of the country; most importantly the provision of infrastructure, securing lives and property, and fighting corruption. And I knew that he need more time to do an extensive job in these areas before the system can produce another person to take over from him. And you could see what the president did in several areas of our economy before the last election of February 2019.
And what are those other areas?
One is the railway sector which had become comatose before the present regime came into office in 2015. President Buhari, during his first tenure, got the railway system working again especially in the North and some parts of the Western region. You can also look at the Second Niger Bridge which had been in the news for so long, and nothing was done about it until this administration came into office. And I am sure that before the president leaves office in 2023, that project would be completed. Also, the other abandoned project was the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe Mausoleum in Onitsha, Anambra state which was started by the military administration, and was abandoned by successive administrations. For instance, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) controlled power for 16 years, yet the project was not completed. But today, that project has been completed by the government of President Buhari. And in the area of corruption he dealt with and have been dealing with those who stole the resources of this country, and who ended up putting our young ones into the unemployment market, and resultant penury.
Are you satisfied with the outcome of the recent visit by Igbo leaders to the President in Aso Rock Villa, Abuja?
The Igbo leaders did not visit the President, rather the visit was undertaken by Igbo leaders of PDP extraction, led by PDP governors. You know that by the time they arrived Aso Rock, all the things they went there to demand from the president had already been approved by the president. Many of their demands, were already in the 2020 budget, and by the time they got their last week Thursday, some monies had been released to undertake some projects in the Southeast. And so, if they had done their research or made enquiries before leaving for Abuja, they would have gone to Abuja to thank Mr. President, rather than going there to make requests because those things they requested for projects that were already in the budget. Let’s take the issue of Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu as an example. The President did not release N10 billion for repair work at Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu because the PDP leaders from the Southeast visited the Villa. No. That money had been released before they got there, and it’s a pity that the senators who were part of the delegation didn’t know about this. They didn’t also care to go through the 2020 budget to find out the projects that are there for the Southeast before making their requests. The need to repair the Enugu airport as well as the removal of the Orie Emene market in Nkwubor to ensure safety of aircraft and passengers have been there for 25 years now. It is only the Buhari government that has taken positive steps to ensure safety of lives and property at that airport.
Some people say the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, should not have accompanied the delegation to Aso Rock because of his opposition to the Buhari government. Do you agree?
I heard that Nwodo was there, and my question is: What did he go there to do? Has he accepted the fact the Buhari won the 2019 presidential election. After all he said about the president, he still had the temerity to visit the Villa. Before the election, he claimed that Ohanaeze gave him the mandate to publicly endorse Atiku Abubakar for the presidential race when nobody gave him such mandate. And there is nothing to show that his comments before and after the elections were approved by Ohanaeze ‘Ime Obi (Elders Council) and the General Assembly of Ohanaeze. I keep on saying that Ohanaeze has a constitution, and before any policy statement is made on behalf of Ndigbo by the President-General, Secretary-General or any official of Ohanaeze, it must be approved by the General Assembly of Ohanaeze. Ohanaeze has not had a General Assembly meeting in the past two years. Though the ‘Elders Council’ has met few times, 50% per cent of members of that council never attended such meetings because they were not invited. Nwodo has practically turned Ohanaeze Ndigbo into a political snipper.
Whatever Nwodo does, is always in favour of candidates of political parties. I expected the South-East governors to rebuke him, but they kept quiet. I feel that was wrong, but they still have a chance to do so.
Do you still disagree with those who say that the anti-graft war of the federal government is one-sided?
If anybody has evidence to prove that the anti-graft war is one sided, let him come forward with such evidence. Perhaps, such people have forgotten so soon that the PDP was in government for 16 years from 1999 to 2015, and if the present administration is looking for people who stole government money, majority of such people will be found within the PDP. And if you argue that some corrupt former members of the PDP have crossed over to the APC, and have not been investigated or prosecuted, there is no evidence to show that you are making a valid claim. Over here in Igboland, some people seem to be protecting their own thieves as if they distributed their loot to every Igbo man. The money they stole was money meant for the development of Igboland, yet some people are protecting them. What is their problem. Why are they protecting their tribal thieves who looted the funds meant for the infrastructural development of Igboland, and for the creation of jobs for our teeming unemployed youths?
Given the way the South-East voted during the last presidential election, do you think Ndigbo can still lay claim to the presidency in 2023?
Yes, we can. However, the position may go to the South-South. The APC may likely win the upcoming gubernatorial election in Bayelsa, and that may give the South-South an edge over Southeast. Already the state has produced an APC senator, and about three members of House of Representatives. Going by the results of the last general elections, Bayelsa state is moving towards proper alliance with the ruling party at the centre. That may propel the Igbo-speaking areas of South-South to move forward and ask for the presidential ticket in 2023. The necessary political alliances past Igbo leaders entered into with the North and South-West have been thrown away by the present day modern politicians in PDP from Igboland. This is even despite the fact that Igbos are not in control of the present-day PDP. If PDP meets today to decide where there next presidential candidate will come from, do you think they will pick a presidential candidate from Igboland? The Igbos are nowhere in the PDP in terms of effective control and contribution to the success of the party. Unfortunately, Igbos are nowhere to be found in the APC structure. But late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Michael Okpara built political alliances with the North and South-West respectively. How else can the Igbo get the presidential seat without revalidating those alliances. It was through political alliance with the North that we got the position of vice president nine years after the civil war. It was through this same political alliance that we got the position of Speaker of House of Representatives; courtesy of NPN/NPP accord. If you read the history of NCNC in Nigerian politics, you will come across names like Chief T. O. S. Benson, and Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya. These were Yoruba leaders who occupied plum positions in the NCNC and in government following political alliance between the Igbo and Yoruba. But today, people like Nwodo are trying to break such relationships. And to thwart such efforts, some of us had to go down to Lagos before the last general elections to talk to Ndigbo resident there and the Ohanaeze leadership to queue behind the Bola Tinubu factor. Today, if you go to Lagos, you see Igbos occupying positions of chairmen of APC. That to me, is true federalism in terms of party politics.
So what in your opinion should the Igbo do to produce the next president in 2023?
The proper thing to do is for the Southeast PDP to collapse its structures into the APC. That way, we ‘ll certainly have a voice when affairs of this country are being discussed. That way, we’ll certainly demand and be given the presidential slot in 2023. The Igbo have no option but to move over to APC enmasse if we are serious about producing a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction in 2023.